Every year when one of my kids turns another year older, I write them a letter about what they’re like at that moment. It’s like a time capsule full of words, so they can read about themselves many years from now, remember the little things they’ve forgotten, and hear their mother’s voice. Max’s birthday is coming up in a couple weeks, so I’ve already started jotting notes on a page titled “You are 9 years old today.”
But today I’m doing something a little different. Today, I write about me.
You are forty years old today. Yes. You.
First of all, you are using Calibri at 18 points, because that’s what feels good right now. For someone who loves white space, you are realizing small print is overrated. You should apologize to all those clients you rolled your eyes at for asking to make everything bigger.
Your favourite colour is blue. Maybe because you grew up by the ocean, or because it reminds you of your father’s eyes. Maybe it just looks damn good with red hair.
But no blue pens, please. Black ink only up in here. And unlined paper. With no wrinkles.
You are not a diva.
You love bubble baths. You will take a bubble bath in the sketchiest of hotel rooms. You’ve yet to find a bath soap that makes a satisfactory amount of bubbles. The smell of that pink bubble bath from Avon reminds you of your nan.
Your secret crush is Dave Letterman.
Tina Fey is your best friend but she doesn’t know it yet.
If you could go to dinner with anyone, it’d be Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin.
If you were a chocolate bar, you’d be a Dairy Milk Fruit and Nut, Dark.
You love trivia but you’re mediocre at best. You’ve been watching Jeopardy since you were a child.
You don’t drink enough water.
Your favourite song is Travellin’ by Matt Mays. But your favourite band of all time is The Bangles. (Girl band!) You sing Eternal Flame to your kids at bedtime.
At your bachelorette party in 2008, you thought you had performed Don’t Look Back In Anger by Oasis at Karaoke Kops but it was actually I Touch Myself by The Divinyls. Ironically you were wearing a shirt and no pants, because you thought it was a dress.
Your favourite movies are Life Is Beautiful, and Bridesmaids. Similar plots.
You love to read but you read like a snail and worry that your life will be too short for all the books. You just finished Lena Dunham’s “Not That Kind Of Girl” and Lindy West’s “Shrill” and now you’re reading Luvvie Ajayi’s “I’m Judging You” and you need to buy Sharon Bala’s “The Boat People” and Elisabeth de Mariaffi’s new novel “Hysteria” ASAP.
Your favourite book is “How To Be a Woman” by Caitlin Moran.
Your favourite children’s book is “The Missing Piece” by Shel Silverstein. Should be required reading for everyone, not just kids.
You have a 20-year-old mattress that is probably 30 pounds heavier than when you bought it because of all the dead skin. You should probably be concerned.
You enjoy folding clothes. This surprises even you.
You cried during every episode of the new Queer Eye. You need more gay men in your life.
You have 16 pairs of Levis. You scored a vintage Levis jean jacket at a thrift store in Halifax in 1997 but have no idea where it is now and it still hurts.
Your last meal would be boiled cod, mashed potatoes, crab legs, macaroni and cheese, sweet corn on the cob, and a glass of freshly squeezed lemonade from the Midwest.
You can’t go to the movies and not eat the outrageously overpriced popcorn.
Your ass is 100% juicy white meat. You’re thankful for high-waisted jeans.
You had a hernia repaired a year ago and the stitches inside you have not yet dissolved. You should probably be concerned.
Your hair is bright red, but not the red you were born with. You work hard and will have what you want, god damn it.
You have worked at m5 for almost 18 years but still learn something new every day. Sometimes that something is that you you’re still spelling weiner wrong.
You’re easily bored, so advertising works for you. You get to solve business problems to help local companies thrive and charities do good in the world. You also get to sniff jumbo markers. It’s okay — you’re creative, they expect you to be weird.
This past fall you went to NYC for a conference for women in advertising. It was a two-day lesson in privilege, and made you realize how lucky you were to be there at all.
You are your own worse critic. You are never 100% happy with your work because you know it could be so much better. It’s okay – this is how great work gets made. Keep pushing, you stupid idiot.
You are way smarter than you think.
You are an activist at heart. The “Patriarchy Got Me Drove” t-shirt you wrote for the St. John’s Status of Women Council has become a catchphrase and a rallying cry for local feminists.
It’s okay to be angry sometimes.
You are a new board member for the St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival. You’ve always dreamed of watching movies and smashing the patriarchy at the same time.
You emceed the International Women’s Day event for the Gander Women’s Centre this year. You told the crowd that you called your parents’ Ford Taurus the Ford Clitoris. Your dad could never find where he parked it.
You are fearless when it matters. You won’t jump from a bungee cord, but you’ll speak up against bullshit like pro-lifers and misogynist twats.
You’ve been flagged by at least one political campaign for being a loudmouth liberal. This is one of your greatest accomplishments.
You tweeted about Coleman’s seal pelts once and sales went gangbusters so they gave you a free pelt and some chocolate to say thanks.
You are emceeing an event by The Designers in May featuring Terry O’Reilly in conversation with Ted Blades. Local designer MJ Couch is making you a dress for the occasion. You told her to make the dress brown in case you shit yourself.
You are a good mom. You’re often impatient, irritable, and lazy, but your kids are turning out pretty amazing so keep up the good work.
You are a wife of some kind. You’re sometimes irritable and preoccupied, but you’re loyal as hell. Your husband is patient, kind, adventurous, and very horny. Keep up.
You are a shitty cook. You set off the smoke alarm more than you’d like to admit.
You don’t blog much anymore because you’re too busy making friggin’ snacks.
Most of your pants don’t fit anymore. You blame Netflix. #Netflab
Part of you wants to give away all your possessions and go live in the woods. But… bubble baths.
You love nature, but one night of camping calls for 8,000 wet wipes.
You’d die without hand lotion and Blistex.
You stopped biting your nails recently but god do they look delicious.
You swear a lot.
Your bedroom is a dumpster fire.
When you walked into a room, you used to wonder if people liked you; now you wonder if you’ll like them.
You used to want to be desired; now you want to be respected.
You have so many smart people in your life. You plan to squeeze every ounce of goodness out of them.
When you say you’re going to show up, you do.
You lost your dog in September. You stroked her belly until the end. It was one of the saddest moments of your life, but knew exactly what to do.
You don’t run away from the hard stuff.
You’ve had the same handful of friends since elementary school. You got blitzed together over Christmas and it was amazing. There’s a certain ease when you’re with the ones who know way too much.
Some of your closest friends are at work. Like ya would, after 18 years. Your work team gave you a hilarious 40th birthday cake with a picture on the front of you on the balance beam, which was actually a picture of you drunk on the grass at the boss’s cabin. This is the danger of friends with mad photoshop skills.
You had your birthday supper at The Fish Exchange. You and Rae split a seafood platter. Max tried five new things and now you owe him $25.
Your mother-in-law cooked you a birthday meal. Your request was stew and you’re not ashamed of it. Stew is an art.
On Good Friday, you had a birthday party at the house. You served a bunch of meat. God was pissed.
You don’t believe in God but your kids can believe whatever they want.
Life is about freedom and choice.
You wish you had more money to travel, and buy art, and buy cheese that’s already grated.
You already buy the grated cheese because you don’t give a fuck.
You’re finding it a little hard to believe you’re 40, until you look at your naked ass in the mirror and then it all makes sense.
You’re determined to not worry about aging; it’s a privilege denied to many. Besides, being upset about turning 40 would be an insult to 90% of the women you most admire. You are now in an exclusive club of some mighty fine broads.
It took you two weeks to write this hot mess. You’re busier than a dog with two dicks. If you stop doing things, you’ll probably die. So just keep going.
I was not a great dog mom. I rarely walked her. I never brushed her hair. Some days came and went and I barely even looked at her, caught up in the daily fuss of work and parenting. I noticed her most when she wasn’t there at all, especially when one of the kids dropped a raisin or Cheerio on the floor. Shit, I gotta bend over and pick that up? Splash was the original Roomba.
But my husband, Andrew, was the best dog dad in the whole world, so I know her life was good because of him, in spite of me. When I first met Andrew in our mid-twenties, his family dog was about 15. He was heart broken when Lacey died, so I wasn’t surprised when he told me: If we are going to be together, there must also be a dog. (My allergies be damned.)
His love of dogs was one of the reasons I loved him, so what could I say? A dog mom I would be. We did some research and settled on the Portuguese Water Dog – hypoallergenic, big enough to take fishing, and small enough to fit into our humble bungalow and midsize car. We found a lovely woman named Mary-Anne who was breeding her porties in her home in Wentworth, Nova Scotia. Her female, Penney, was pregnant, so we put in our order. On Friday the 13th of April, 2007, our girl was born. But of course we didn’t yet know which one she was.
We picked her from a photo of the litter – eight or nine sleeping balls of fur in a myriad of black and white. We knew her when we saw her; she was a little separated from the group – a sure sign that she was adventurous and ready to travel across the Gulf to become a Newfoundlander. Most porties are black with just a few white spots, but Splash was equal parts black and white, like a tiny dairy cow.
We even thought about calling her Cowie. But we settled on Splash, elated to realize that the first two letters of our childhood dogs’ names combined to spell it — Spook, Lacey, Skip. And an unexplained H. (Hey, Newfoundlanders love putting H’s where they don’t belong.) It was meant to be.
When she was eight weeks old and ready to leave her mother, Andrew flew to Halifax and brought her home in a little bag tucked under his seat on the plane. She was 10 pounds and fully trained to pee and poop outside, with big brown eyes and fur like ripples of silk. She was perfection, softer than clouds, her breath as sweet as sugar.
She was cute but feisty. Mary-Anne later confirmed it – we had picked the alpha female in the litter. This would be extra fun when she was a fully grown 50-pounder! I remember one night shortly after we got her, Splash trotted to the front door to watch master Andrew leave for hockey. As soon as the door shut behind him, she turned to me sitting on the couch, arched her wee body like a jungle cat, and charged at me. She chased me around the couch for ten minutes while I yelped, half amused and half shit-baked. I was being terrorized by a fuzzy dice with legs! Her Friday the 13th birth started to make sense; we had ourselves a demon baby. It took me a while to show her that I, too, was boss. Though I’m not sure she was ever fully convinced. They say a dog only has one master, and it wasn’t me.
She was a super mischievous pup. I once left a ceramic plate of burnt cookies on the stove and returned home to find the plate laying on her bed across the room — intact and not a crumb to be seen.
She destroyed many a shoe. I mourned a few favourite sneakers.
We often returned home to see garbage strewn across the living room.
Once she even got into my stash of lady products and had a proper chow-down. If you’re ever wondering what a tampon looks like after it has travelled through a dog’s digestive system, just ask me.
But she was a dog with a conscience. We always knew she had done something naughty when she didn’t greet us at the front door with her signature shoe-in-mouth move. Sure enough, there’d be a steamer on the rug, and Splash would be on our bed trembling with fear.
Eating tampons doesn’t sound too bright, but she was sharp as a tack. She could sit, lie down, roll over, give you her paw, and toss a treat from her nose to her mouth.
She could count too. I shit you not. Drop a treat on the ground and tell her not to touch it till you count to three. “One… two…………THIRTEEN!” She’d jut her head toward the treat before realizing I said thirteen, not three, and continue to wait patiently. If the counting went on too long, drool would drip from her lips. Sometimes she just couldn’t resist and picked the treat up gingerly, hoping maybe we hadn’t noticed.
She could answer the phone. Yes, I’m serious. Press the page button on the base to make the cordless phone beep and she’d ransack the house to find the phone and return it to you. We’d be in another room when suddenly the beeping would get closer and closer to us; she had found it and was on her way, proud as punch.
And, at just five months old, Andrew taught her to get a beer out of fridge. Don’t believe me? Voila…
She was the centre of our world… until our world got one more human in it. Splash was two years old when our son Max came along, and the confusion of having a child with the #1 dog name in the world commenced. I lost count of how many people called the dog Max and the baby Splash.
Before we left the hospital, we sent home a receiving blanket with the baby’s scent so Splash wouldn’t eat the new eight-pound intruder. As if. Splash humbly took her place at the bottom of the family hierarchy in exchange for all the crumbs tossed from Max’s highchair and all the applesauce on his lips, forever.
She enjoyed 50% of the backseat for a few years… and then Rae came along. We had just enough room for her furry butt, jammed between the two car seats.
But it never deterred her from coming with us on excursions. She always wanted to be with us, no matter what. In her last week of life, we knew she was sick, so I happily squeeeeeezed into the back seat so she could ride shotgun like old times. Splash in the passenger seat was always a riot. Drivers would pull up beside us at red lights, nudge their passenger, and chuckle at us. Splash would glance at them and then stare straight ahead like she gave zero fucks. Pfffft. They didn’t even have any treats.
But watch out – if you reached your right hand over to scratch her while you were driving and then decided to put that hand back on the wheel, oh hell no. She’d paw at you to keep scratching. Yes, her paw would come at you while you were operating a motor vehicle. She didn’t say you could stop, fool! Multi-task! Drive with your knees!
She may have gotten demoted in the car, but she always took top spot in the bed. The kids had to sleep in their own beds but Splash got to sleep with us. At night, she’d walk halfway down the hall, turn around and stare at us, beckoning us to bed because she was tired.
We moved into the city a couple years ago, with neighbours a few feet away in every direction and a backyard the size of a meatball. This was Splash’s retirement home. For most of her life, we lived in a dog’s paradise – rural Torbay, with a house backing onto acres of farmland and a frisbee’s throw from the ocean. She ran free on the East Coast Trail, lapping up rainwater from puddles, chewing on sticks, and sampling the berries. Even in our fenceless backyard, she had space to sniff and explore. Sometimes I’d let her out to pee and completely forget about her. I’d look out the back window and she’d be waaaaaay the bejesus out in the pasture. I’d call out in my most threatening voice (which is not very threatening, unfortunately) for her to come back. She’d look up and stare at me and not budge an inch till I uttered the magic word – “treat.” That bitch ain’t no fool – she begged to go out way more than she needed to, just so I’d have to give her a Milkbone to come back. Sometimes she’d give me a proper “fuck you” and run off even further, treat or no treat, and I’d have to suit up in boots, coat, and angry face to go hunt her down. Which was super fun when I was nine months pregnant with a bowling ball in my underwear.
I spent most of 2009 and 2015 at home on maternity leave, so some days I’d be outside in my bathrobe, baby on my hip, tits exposed to the world, hair like a rat’s nest, yelling “get back here NOW, ya little frigger!” Sometimes I could see neither hide nor hair of her, so I’d have to toss the baby in the backseat, get in the car, and drive around the neighbourhood, scanning the greenery for a little poof of black and white. Usually I’d find her out back of the Foodland where tasty morsels often fell from the dumpster. I’d bawl at her to come hither and she’d start the slow walk of shame to the car, head down, paws full of Torbay mud. Busted again. When Andrew got home from work and asked how my day was, Splash’s latest escapade was often a highlight. Sometimes I didn’t tell him at all so he wouldn’t blame my newfound obsession with Road to Avonlea.
She drove me to drink some days. But chasing her down, taking her for a walk to tire her out so she wouldn’t pull a fast one on me later… It got me out of the house, reminded me there was a whole world out there beyond the diaper pail, when many days I just wanted to curl up in a ball and cry.
Once, we lost her completely. Well, the lady I was paying to clean our filthy house lost her completely. That was an expensive day, let me tell ya. Andrew and I both missed half a day of work, scouring the whole town for the little frigger. We were bound to come up empty because our fuzzy wanderer had been taken into custody. Picked up by the dogcatcher. Yes, apparently that’s not just a fictional character in Annie. I paid a hundred dollars to bail her out of doggy jail at the Town Hall. (Newsflash: you need a proper I.D. tag from the City on your dog. Who knew?)
Splash would never have survived in jail. She loved her freedom too much. She stuck her head out the car window to feel the wind on her face. When we got close to one of her favourite places, like her buddy Jack’s house, she’d start to whine with excitement. She totally knew geography. Or maybe her nose could smell that big ol’ Bernese Mountain Dog. In any case, she figured out how to put down the window with her paw, so she could feel like she was getting there faster.
She liked to run off leash on Dunphy’s Lane, bend the yellow grass in the meadow. We went there the week before she died. But things were different now. There were new homes going up where she used to run, cutting her freeway short. She wouldn’t have been able to run anyways, not now. Splash lay down in the warm grass while we filled our butter tubs with blueberries.
She loved to swim and fetch sticks from the pond on Whitty’s Lane. Ducks scattered when they saw her coming. When we took her for walks, her webbed feet would pull us toward the pond.
She loved to go fishing and camping with Andrew. Once she went on a hard-core canoeing adventure and almost got eaten alive by the nippers. Andrew had to practically carry her home.
She was funny. She slept in the zaniest positions – paws straight up in the air, crotch open to the world. I wondered what she could be dreaming about. She wouldn’t get up in the morning until we did. If we stayed in bed till noon, she’d stay right there with us. Of course sleeping in became a thing of the past once the kids came along. But if one of us was sick in bed, Splash would be right alongside.
She was always happy to see you. As soon as anyone came into the house, she’d be at the front door with a sneaker or a toy in her mouth, circling you with a low growl, tailwagging and butt wiggling, eventually dropping the object at your feet so you could rub her head. That was your cover charge. She especially liked being scratched on her lower back, and did the running man in response.
When you jumped up suddenly and ran upstairs or down the hall, she’d chase you like a madman, nails slipping on the hardwood floor, whining with anticipation. We’d do this on occasion for sheer amusement.
She had jaws of steel. Historically, the strong-jawed Portuguese Water Dog was used by fishermen to haul up nets. Splash used hers to rip the eyes and nose off countless toys. When I put away her things yesterday, on top of the pile was a brown monkey a friend gave me at my first baby shower – with holes where its eyes used to be. Of course I kept it.
Like most dogs, Splash loved to go for walks. But she was was so clever, we had to spell out the word “leash” if we weren’t quite prepared to get up and at ‘em. And when she didn’t want to walk any further or didn’t like the direction you were heading, she’d put on the brakes: planted her four feet on the ground and put her head down. We’d have to drag her home like a stubborn mule.
She spent a lot of time in the bathroom. Think you were going to poop alone? Oh no, you may as well leave the door ajar or she’d be scratching at it within seconds. We’d step on her when we got out of the shower. She licked the water off our legs when we got out. She drank the bath water, bubbles and all. The last few months of her life, the toilet was her personal water fountain.
She’d go into the bedrooms and mess up the bedding. I was never sure why. Gave me a great excuse for never making the beds.
She’d bite our bums when we ran around the backyard. She ripped the arse out of more than one pair of pants.
She rarely barked. Other than finding a scattered turd on your lawn when she ran out of room on ours, she made an ideal neighbour.
She’d hang off the couch in weird and hilarious ways. I have dozens of pictures of Splash perched or dangling or spread eagle on the sofa. What a weirdo.
She loved chasing us when we went sledding in winter, nipping at us all the way down the hill. An extra layer of terror for the descent.
In winter, snow stuck to her fur like a million tiny snowballs. We’d find huge puddles of water on the floor as it melted off her.
She was a friend to all, even after enduring years of abuse from the new humans.
We were very lucky to have such a sweet, gentle soul in our daily lives. But I didn’t say she was polite…
When we went into a restaurant, she’d give us the death stare from the car. GIVE ME YOUR HAMBURGERRRRR. Splash loved food. She died for cheese. The only food we saw her turn down in her 10+ years was a mushroom. Watching a movie with Splash in the room was sheer torture, with her head bobbing toward you every few seconds, gesturing for another piece of popcorn. She stalked everyone eating anything and licked the dirty dishes in the dishwasher; I called her the pre-rinse cycle. When you were eating at the table, you might feel something emerging from under the table, between your legs — don’t worry, it was just Splash’s furry face, taking care of that corn niblet that just fell from your plate. She was very subtle. We joked that she’d choose a pork chop over any one of us, any day.
But during her last couple of weeks, we saw that that was just not true. Her organs were failing, she wasn’t digesting food, she turned up her nose to just about everything we cooked up. On Saturday, we walked into our bedroom and saw her standing in the corner with her head stuck between the nightstand and the wall, a pile of regurgitated food nearby. Eight years ago we might have scolded her, but now all we felt was pity. We rubbed her head and said it was alright, and I quickly cleaned up the mess.
And we knew we had it wrong all this time. The thing she loved most in this world wasn’t food; it was us – the touch of her humans. Belly rubs. Head scratches. It was the only pleasure that remained now at this 11th hour. And so there were many and often. I tried to make up for lost time, rubbing her soft belly every chance I got, sometimes waking in the middle of the night for a cuddle, to make sure she knew I was there. And on Sunday morning as she struggled to live while her body gave up the fight, we held her, and rubbed her, and caressed her silken head, and told her she was a good girl — the very best.
A dog’s life. How basic. How painfully brief. And it’s entirely up to us how it goes. I think that’s why it hurts so much. Because her whole existence – her life, and her death – was for us. Beyond this family, there was nothing. All she ever wanted was a walk, a rub, and a piece of cheese. There’s something terribly pitiful about it all, and something I could never adequately honour. I always struggled with the guilt of skipped walks and her long days at home alone while we worked. I struggle with it still. Did we do enough? Was she happy? Did we do right by her? Did we waste too much time?
There aren’t enough Milkbones in the world to repay her for what she gave us. She was comfort. When I had a rough day at work, her simple presence brought me down to earth. When my dad died, I found solace in her quiet warmth.
She was loyalty. When nobody else saw me, she stared right into my eyes. Hoping I was going to make popcorn, most likely, but still — when nobody else was waiting for me at home, she was there. She made a terrible guard dog – rarely barked, and so friendly she’d happily welcome intruders if they smelled like bacon. But she was there nonetheless – a constant companion, a trusted sidekick. We were never alone.
She was true, uncomplicated love. The way she’d close her eyes and press her head into my hand when I rubbed her ear. That was all she wanted from me (besides popcorn). And when days went by when I didn’t rub those ears or look into those big brown eyes, and those days certainly did go by, she never held a grudge. Mark Twain got it right — if heaven went by merit, we’d stay out and our dog would go in.
She was a reminder to cherish the simple things. Stop fussing. Keep playing. Never stop playing. She is still a reminder of that, perhaps now more than ever. The silence here in the house is so very loud.
I thank Andrew, too, for wanting a dog in the first place (my allergies be damned). I would never have known this sadness, but I would also never have known this love. There is no pain so great as the memory of joy in present grief.
Her death is a throbbing reminder that life is short. Time is fleeting. Ten years, man… a decade… gone in a blink. There’s only so much time for walks, only so much time for belly rubs, only so much time. Especially when so much of our time is spent paying the bills, and we’re all so very tired.
We knew the day was coming but we hadn’t discussed what to do once it came. Not an easy thing to talk about; feels like you’re willing it to happen. But when the moment arrived Sunday morning just before dawn, I think we both knew where she belonged.
We woke the kids to touch her satiny coat for the last time. And we laid our first baby to rest in a diaper box, in a spot where she lived her best days. Near where she galloped on the East Coast Trail, back and forth, back and forth, in bursts of the purest bliss. There were cows there as they often were when this was our stomping grounds. They watched us dig the hole, curious, cautious. A cow and her two calves lay in the grass, but the mother soon came to her feet and got a little closer, protecting her little ones, as mothers do. It felt like it meant something.
We covered the box in dirt, marked it with rocks, and returned this magnificent gift to mother earth.
The cows came up to the car as we were leaving. I saw a glimpse of Splash in their eyes. And we left our little girl there on the green hillside with a view of the ocean. It was hard to drive away, but we knew she was home.
I think about her most at bedtime. I picture her there on the hillside, in the darkness all alone instead of curled up at the foot of our bed. I can feel the ache in my chest. I know Andrew feels it too, even more so; he has felt this before. I’m almost surprised by my own grief. It keeps me awake. I flip my pillow to the dry side. As hard as it was to let go of those silky ears and soft belly, I know that’s just her shell out there. The soul of her – the genesis of our family, our steadfast friend – will always be wherever we are.
We have a secret, you and I, that no one else shall know, for who but I can see you lie each night in fire glow?
And who but I can reach my hand before we go to bed and feel the living warmth of you and touch your silken head?
And only I walk woodland paths and see ahead of me, your small form racing with the wind so young again, and free.
And only I can see you swim in every brook I pass and when I call, no one but I can see the bending grass. – Anonymous
Newsflash, girl: 2016 was not cool. Syria, Brexit, Zika, Orlando, Carrie Fisher, that guy in charge of America now (name’s not important), and the list of disappointments goes on. There’s no way around it – 2016 was a steaming pile of hot garbage in the history of the world.
But not in your world. You turned two just before 2016 ended, and by all accounts (i.e. most accounts; see previous paragraph) your second year on the planet was pretty darn sweet. Case in point: your Halloween costume was a pineapple. Doesn’t get much sweeter than that.
And as god and Dora the Explorer are my witnesses, I am determined to remember Sweet ‘16. Even if it means remembering that Prince died (sob) and Hillary lost (weep). It’ll be worth it if it means remembering you, as you are right now, at two years old.
Rae Alice Murphy.
This morning, I asked you what your favourite colour was. You said: apple. Then I asked you what your favourite food was. You said: blue. It’s okay. I know you hit the bottle pretty hard last night.
Your favourite colour is yellow, formerly known as LELLOW. You’d look intently at my mouth and try your darnedest to follow direction and then, “Yaaaaaaaa LELLOW!” It was so adorable, I almost didn’t want you to ever get it right. But then you did.
Your favourite food is groceries. Okay, if I had to pick just one: apples. I have to hide the bowl of Granny Smiths on the counter under a cloth. If you ever meet a woman named Granny Smith, I fear for her life. If an apple keeps the doctor away, you are immortal.
Immortal indeed! On your second birthday, you wore a Wonder Woman shirt WITH A CAPE. It was a size 4, which is the size a 4-year-old usually wears. You are 33 pounds and tall. I want a shirt (WITH A CAPE, IT’S ONLY FAIR) that says, “My baby can kick your baby’s ass.” Just kidding, size only matters when your brother Max is deciding which half of a cookie to give you.
But if you’re a superhero, it’s probably Spiderman. Check it. Last summer, at 18 month old, you were watching Daddy play in a softball tournament. I took you home for a nap between games, but you just weren’t settling so I left you there to cry it out in your crib. As I washed the dishes downstairs, your cry got louder and louder, and closer and closer? Freaked out, I ran to the bottom of the stairs and there you were on the landing, sobbing and… UN-CRIBBED! You had escaped, even with the mattress at its lowest setting. There was no clunk on the floor, so I knew you hadn’t fallen. You had climbed! Or pried the solid oak bars open with your mini bingo wings and slipped out. That week you fast-tracked to a toddler bed with a super duper waterproof mattress cover. (Now if only you could graduate to the toilet.) Later that evening when I was telling Dad about your Olympic future in pole vault, you took me by the hand and led me to your crib. I tore the crime tape away, put you in, and in the blink of an eye you swung your chubby leg up over the side, hoisted yourself up, and used your webbed feet to slide down to the floor, where my jaw was now sitting as well.
Your favourite TV shows are Dora, Super Why, Horrid Henry, and Wanda and the Alien. (Netflix has changed our lives.)
Your favourite game is Hedbanz. Me: Am I am an animal? You: No, you’re a sandwich.
Your favourite movies are How the Grinch Stole Christmas and E.T.
You can say, “E.T. phone home.” When someone asks who you’re gonna call, you know the answer… Ghostbusters! And when Max built a Lego helicopter last month, you shouted “Get to the choppa!”
Your vocab is off the charts. Your aunt Kim who happens to be a speech language pathologist/doctor/professor (FYI feel free to follow in her footsteps) confirms it – you’re the next Cicero, or Pericles, or (please please pleeeeeease) Gloria Steinem.
A few weeks back when Max was in the tub, I had to pull you out of the bathroom kicking and screaming, “I want to touch Max’s vagina!” When I corrected you on the body part name you took note and yelled, “I want to touch Max’s peanut!” You kill me.
There are monsters in your room. You said Max told you. He denies it, but I’m suspicious. Just last week he got upset when I wouldn’t let him go into your room to save you from the creatures that looked an awful lot like your bathrobe and towel hanging on the hook. I finally gave in. He put his arm around you and said, “I never want you to be afraid of anything, Rae.” (Sounds guilty to me!)
You’re going to be a doctor when you grow up. At least that’s what you told my friend, Cecilia, while waiting for me in the Panera Bread parking lot. We toasted your future with a turkey apple cranberry on multigrain.
You do like giving examinations with your doctor’s kit. But what’s up with the constant needles in my face? Maybe plastics will be your specialty. Free botox, yasssssssss.
You might want to get potty-trained first though, Doc McPoopins. Imagine how long it’ll take you to scrub in if you keep using your pants as a toilet and sticking your hands down there. Last week you were excited to wear panties around the house for the first time. Disney princess panties! “Don’t pee on the princess,” I said. You peed on the princess.
You can count to 20, but usually get tangled up around 14.
Speaking of tangles, OMG YOUR HAIR. It’s reddish goldish brown and wavy and unruly and great for catching bats.
Your eyes are dark brown like coffee beans. Your father, Van Morrison, says you’re his brown-eyed girl. You’ve really nailed the stink-eye though, assisted by your big, magnificent eyebrows. These brows will come in handy as you question everything forever.
You have the most jubilant trot. Every stomp (not step – STOMP!) shakes the mugs in the cupboard. You walk to the bookcase or toy box like you’re the next contestant on The Price is Right and you’ve been waiting your whole life to play Plinko.
You love books! Max reads to you. That’s why I waited 5+ years to have you, so Max could do all the work. GENIUS. Currently your favourite story is Jack and the Beanstalk.
Max also taught you how to play “Daddy Goes to Hockey” on the ukulele. Dad and I have resigned to the fact that we will never have a family band.
Your favourite toy is MAX’S LEGOS. Especially the ones that he has already assembled.
You are fascinated by nature. Snow, birds, puddles, and “The moon! The moon!” One morning as we were leaving the house you asked me if I could see “the hun”. You meant the sun. You’re hill (still) learning to make the S hound (sound). It was a beautiful winter morning and you helped me see it. Sometimes it’s hard to see the sun even when “it’s cold enough to turn you into a popsicle.” (Simile provided by Max while I was proofreading this piece, to replace something about a brass monkey.)
You’ve taught me so much already, like this fun fact:It takes about 6-9 months to grow back a toenail. You lost the nail on your right big toe this summer after squatting it in the door. It’s almost grown back now and looks totally badass.
You like wearing make-up NOOOOOO ya don’t. But you grab my make-up brushes when I’m getting ready for work, and I tickle your face with the bristles. More than once I’ve caught you putting my deodorant on your armpits – on the outside of your shirt. When you’re a bigger girl, you’ll probably have your own lipgloss or something (so yummy, right?) Your body is your own, and if you want to have fun with make-up, I’ll help you. Also feel free to save your make-up money for books and puzzles. Just a suggestion.
You love trying on hats and shoes. Sometimes you wear Max’s old hockey helmet around the house just for fun.
When Dad and Max go to the basement to play hockey, you say “I play hockey too!” You grab your stick and put your boots on the wrong feet and go downstairs to run about, occasionally taking breaks to lean up against an old mattress and suck your thumb.
YOU SUCK YOUR THUMB. A lot. So much, it should have been the first thing on this list.
You like going to the arena to watch Max play hockey NO YOU DON’T. You go there to run around like a wind-up toy, put your mouth directly on the water fountain, and eat stray Timbits off the floor.
When someone sings “Hush Little Baby”, which ends with the line “You’ll still be the best little girl in town,” you promptly correct them with “best little girl IN THE WORLD!” Go big or go home, says you.
But try and be polite, huh? We were at a store recently and you were there in your stroller, arms outstretched like you were flying. A nice man saw how cute you were and asked, “Are you an airplane?” “No, I’m a bumblebee!!!” you corrected him, with the face of Jack Nicholson in The Shining. He apologized and moved along. Sin.
You’re sure not afraid to ask for what you want. Whether it’s a snack, a toy, or my iPhone, you say “I want it. I neeeeeeed it.” Sometimes you lay on the persuasion with “One more time?”(which you never mean) or “Just a little bit?”(also a lie) and “Pleeeeease?” (damn it!) in a voice that weakens even the strongest resolve. Here, just take everything. You win. You’ll be a great leader one day. “I want that report on my desk in 24 hours,” said President Murphy. “And I’ll have that apple on your desk too.”
You logged your second plane ride in 2016. We went to Ontario to visit family and friends. Aunt Robin kept buying you things bigger than our suitcase and her boyfriend, Frank, let you eat ketchup chips for breakfast. My friends’ 11-year-old daughters, Ainsley and Avery, put on a fashion show with you as their wee model! Your looks included geisha, blue-haired umbrella girl, and local Oshawa gal in belly top, leggings, and heels.
Everywhere we went on our vacation, you talked to strangers. (It’s okay, I was with you, but let’s have the stranger danger talk real soon, k?) While shopping, you forced eye contact with total randos and said things like, “I’m shopping with my mommy!” “Good for you,” they’d reply. On the airplane, you announced, “I’m on a big airplane!” just in case someone thought we were on a magic bus in the clouds. You offered a grape to the young man in the next seat; he accepted. (I was dreading you offering him a cube of wet cheese.) While in the checkout line at the store, you looked at a couple standing behind us and said, “I’m a pineapple!” They looked amused slash confused so I had to explain: Halloween. You make friends wherever you go.
We even went to a seniors’ home for a craft sale and charmed the pants off a couple residents who were sitting in the lobby. As we were leaving, I suggested you give one of the ladies a hug goodbye. (Old people make me weak.) You promptly marched up to her and gave her a big hug and kiss. She couldn’t have looked more delighted if she had just made out with Elvis Presley.
You are a fearless performer. I facetimed you from the m5 boardroom a few weeks ago when I was working late and you gave my bosses, Kim and Gary, an impromptu performance of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. They both died of cuteness overdose and now I have to run the company myself.
You’re well versed in all the classics and demand them in succession at bedtime, pulling your thumb out just long enough to shout: Row, Row, Row Your Boat! Rockabye Baby! Old MacDonald had a farm! You Are My Sunshine! Etc. You also sing some tune called “I love you” that Poppy taught you, that includes the line “it’s a sin to tell a lie.” Must be some weird Catholic tune that condemns you to hell or something. (JK, Pop.) I think it’s time to shake up this trad train. Gotta give Gaga a go. Or maybe we could try Metallica’s version of Hush Little Baby. It’s called Enter Sandman. LOL.
Not all your songs are traditional though. You like to sing “Dumb Ways to Die,” (based on the popular PSA for train safety, now also a game on Max’s iPad), which Poppy overheard and thought you were singing, “Don’t wait to die.” YOIKES. Darn tune is as catchy as heck, so I can’t blame you for singing it at the airport in Toronto as we were about to board our flight. But remind me not to teach you the word “bomb.”
We had a great first summer at our new house. We got you a water table for the back deck, which you proceeded to climb into, clothes and all. Gonna need a pool next year, I guess. A small one. Like, super small. One downfall of our new life in the suburbs: our backyard is an amoeba.
You also made your first snowman a few weeks ago! The snow wasn’t sticky enough, so I carved a picture of a snowman in the snow-covered ground. You stuck the carrot right in the middle of him, so Frosty ended up with a chubby instead of a nose.
You are very independent. You like putting on your boots yourself. If I do it for you, you rip them off in a huff and put them on again yourself. Needless to say, getting ready in the morning is very efficient and enjoyable. You like brushing your teeth by yourself too because Dad works at the dental clinic and you want to make him proud YEAH RIGHT YOU LIKE EATING TOOTHPASTE AND YOU KNOW IT!
You’re a tough cookie, so I was surprised when you were unsure of your new daycare at first. On the way there last week, you kept saying “I don’t like daycare” over and over in the backseat. I had to bribe you to go inside with cheese. We are so related. You’re content there now though. The girls at daycare say you’re the first responder when another child is upset. And yesterday you amused them by shouting “Get to the choppa!” while eating your lunch.
Your best friend is Wayne Murphy. I know, who names their kid Wayne anymore, am I right? He’s 71 but about 7 at heart, so it works. When Nanny walks into our house, you look right past her and say “Where’s Poppy?”
When Poppy dropped us off at the airport and you realized he wasn’t coming on the plane with us, your lip started to quiver and your eyes filled up with tears. We had never seen you like that. Nan and I had hearts so heavy, it’s a wonder the plane got off the ground.
I was Poppy’s Girl too (RIP Jack Stagg whose wool socks I’m wearing right now!), so I get it. “Are you daddy’s girl?” people ask you. “No, Poppy’s girl!” you clarify with that stink-eye we know and love. Poppy cries on the spot when you say something adorable. Please don’t kill him with your sweetness; we need him to keep babysitting you.
Sometimes I think about your other Poppy, and how unfair it is that he’s not here to enjoy you, and you him. But Poppy Murphy is doing such a great job (and Nanny Rosena and Nanny Shirley, too), and I know Poppy Jim would be so very thankful for that. So I don’t get sad about it much at all. Not anymore.
You may only be two but you’re the most compassionate person I know. When someone stubs their toe, you first exclaim “awwww” and then rush over to kiss it. Lips or feet, friend or stranger, your love is blind. (Again, let’s schedule that stranger danger talk.) “All better now?” you ask. Your sweetness really does ease the pain. See? You really are going to be a doctor.
Daddy had a really bad back this year. “It’s okay, Daddy. I right here,” you said, and our hearts exploded all over the living room. Dad and I share many a knowing glance. How sweet is this child?, our eyes say. Our eyes also say, how could two twits like us have made something so glorious? It’s quite possible you’re from another dimension. Planet Pineapple, perhaps.
I think you’ve dodged the “turbo ginger” gene, unlike your brother. It’s true – you’re a hugger, a snuggler, and a midnight cuddler. (Max used to hug knives and matches.) But you’ve shown some unusual feist these last couple of weeks – pulling a glass bowl of apples off the counter, yelling things like “I didn’t want dat!” and “I didn’t know dat!” even though we have no idea what you’re referring to. I think, with all your sweetness, I forgot what toddlerhood is really like. So I guess it’s begun. 2017 is going to be fun, and also “fun.”
Bring on the terrible twos; we can handle it. We’ll still enjoy the sweetest moment of the day when you’re back in my arms after work. You take a deep breath and sigh away all the cares of the world as you snuggle into my neck – thumb in your mouth, hand down my shirt, eyes closed, problems nil. In our circle of family and friends, this is famously called “boo-boo time.” Sometimes while grocery shopping, you pull me down toward you, my elbows leaning on the shopping cart handle, so you can cop a feel. I’m squeezing Sobeys’ oranges and you’re squeezing mine. Okay fine, mine are lemons, whatever. Half the city has seen my produce I DON’T EVEN CARE.
You are generous. As much as you love food, you will give away your last cracker without hesitation. You gave your birthday money to twin girls from Deer Lake who needed it more than you. (Rest in peace, sweet Autumn.) Maybe every year you can do something special like that. People say it’s not fair to deprive you of your rightful gifts, but I see this gesture as a gift to you in the first place. Just because everyone has done things a certain way forever doesn’t mean you need to do it that way. Question everything, girl. Use those eyebrows. There is often a better way.
Max adores you. Except the time he discovered his Minecraft Xbox game was broken and all signs pointed to NOT THE DOG. Just remember this when you’re older and maybe not so lovey-dovey: your brother is the only one you’re ever gonna have, and you might need him for spare parts or something. Dad got the ol’ snippity-snip a few weeks back. I’ll explain that if you don’t know what that means when you read this one day. Basically, you’re always gonna be my baby. Even when/if you have babies of your own.
You won’t remember much of your second year on earth. And maybe that’s okay, because it means you won’t be haunted by the yucky parts of 2016: terrorism, police shootings, Gord Downie’s brain tumor, and did I mention that buttmunch running the US now? Yeah. Ew. So much ew.
Maybe I won’t remember the details either. I won’t recall the squishy roundness of your face, or that bananas are lellow, or the way you tucked your head into my neck and all was right with the world. I know those details will leave me, because I’ve come this way once before with Max. It hurts. A beautiful kind of pain.
But I promise you, I will remember what it was like to have a little girl in the year 2016. Oh, how I root for you. Your presence here and your future up ahead have taught me to be more aware today, more tuned in to a world where many don’t want you to succeed. It taught me to be more honest, more kind, more realistic and optimistic at the same time. It made me want to be the kind of woman you can look up to, not just because I’m your mom. I want to be that person who takes the time to snuggle, or dance like a chicken, or talk about weird stuff, or write you a 10-page letter on your birthday.
I know this simple sweetness won’t last forever. You’re going to change, and things will get complicated, and you’ll have bigger problems than your boots on the wrong feet. I was a girl once too, and still am in some ways (stop laughing). I’ll yearn for these quiet moments when the world just melted away. That’s what makes me lean over that shopping cart to give you full range of my meagre dairy section. Because I know this wonderful ridiculous thing has an expiry date.
So yes, 2016 wasn’t exactly a shining moment in history. (And 2017 is looking like a rotting, worm-infested moose carcass so far as well.) But for you, last year was pretty great. And hopefully by the time you’re reading this, we’ll have cleaned this whole mess up and be shaking our heads at the blunders of 2016 the way we do at VHS tapes and hoop skirts and uranium dirt sitting. (“Was that even a thing?”) And you’ll be standing there in your adult-size pineapple costume BECAUSE WHY NOT, with the roads (plural) stretched out before you in all directions. And if things are still crap and people are still hurting, then I hope you’ll be one of the brave ones. Don’t get to the choppa, girl. Stay right here and fight.
We open on a small wrench and a pair of muddy training wheels on the front step, one wheel still spinning slowly.
We hear happy voices in the distance and cut to see a little girl, about five, on a wobbly red bike, her dad running alongside, his hands on top of hers on the handlebars.
The iconic picture of parenthood. But it’s not a picture of me and my dad. Not even close.
Here’s how that scene looks with me and my dad in it:
I’m on the bike pedaling like a Christmas lunatic, my red and white streamers whipping around in the wind that I’m generating with my fierce ginger power. I glance over my shoulder to surely see Dad running along beside me but nope, he’s not there. Well, he is, but waaaaaaay the fuck back there, shrinking in the background. I see him chuckle and wave then turn back to the house, hoping that I don’t crash but more importantly that his pen slash bookmark hasn’t rolled out from this month’s Reader’s Digest.
That’s the kind of parent he was. I don’t mean negligent or distracted, though maybe that was sometimes true. What I mean is, he got me started on things. He provided the means. He gave me a gentle push. And then he fucked off. Went back to his own world, checking on me occasionally to make sure I was still coasting along just fine.
Dad was a great speaker, writer and teacher, but he was not a great listener. You know what? He was a shitty listener. El shitto. This was especially apparent during my teenage years. I’d be talking, explaining something or other, and he’d be nodding and saying “yes” at intervals where “yes” made zero sense. Sometimes I’d say crazy shit like “I’m going to try cocaine today, okay Dad?” just to see if he was listening. He gave me the thumbs up on illicit drugs and teen pregnancy and Hitler at least 50 times.
I mean, I get it now that I’m the parent of a seven-year-old who talks endlessly about Pokemon and Minecraft. I nod and say “uh-huh” a lot while thinking “I want to die” and “Please, aliens, come and take me your planet.” It is really hard to be interested in something you’re just not, no matter how excited your kid is about it, no matter how much you love that kid.
Sometimes Dad’s parenting style suited me just fine, like when I came home drunk and plunked myself down on the couch a few feet away from him just to prove how undrunk I was. Dad would say, “Oh, you’re home. That’s good then. Goodnight, daughter. Sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite.” On occasion he might even say, “you should pop some popcorn now.” (He could quote Shakespeare but didn’t know how to operate the microwave.) Maybe he really didn’t know I was drunk; he was way more in tune with the latest news on CBC than any developments in my life. (Damn you, Ted Blades.) Or maybe he totally knew but was just glad I was home safe which meant I had made some good decisions along the way and that was good enough for him.
That’s how he did the whole Dad thing. He just kind of let me go, and helped me get there without having too much to say about it. When I decided to go off to Halifax to study English after high school, he was like “okay then.” We used to joke that I would be a lawyer (he was a great debater and a big fan of true crime), but my career path was always mine to navigate. I knew I’d have my parents’ support, whatever I chose. Yes, even advertising. Dad called me every night when I was in university, and wrote me letters full of his trademark foolish inspiration (study hard, don’t eat yellow snow, etc.), and replenished my bank account – a little bit at a time (my folks were generous but they weren’t idiots).
Even when it came to boyfriends, Dad never had much to say. I dated a black guy during my freshman year and sent home a photo. Nice picture, Dad said. (My grandfather’s comments were a little more colourful.) I dated a couple hard tickets too. No problem, said Dad. Everyone was good. Everyone deserved a chance. Or maybe he paid so little attention he thought they were all the same guy.
When Andrew and I decided to get married, we knew we didn’t want a Jesusy ceremony. But Dad was a church-going man his whole life so I was a little nervous to break the news that he wouldn’t be walking his only daughter down the aisle toward the altar. His response? “You can get married at The Woods, or in the sticks, bushes, or alders. I will be there.” My favourite email from him, ever.
He was there alright, but he was sick. We could see it. A diagnosis came soon after. I was pregnant with Max when he had a tumour removed from his bowel. I was about to give birth when his second surgery — the only chance to extend his life — was a flop. I got to work helping him finish his book between feedings. I found him a local publisher who wouldn’t wait six months to get back to him; he didn’t have that kind of time. In October, less than three months before he died, he launched his book, Fogo Island Boy. I sat back and watched him glow, signing books for friends and fans at Chapters. He was like a kid in a candy store. Or maybe a kid on a bike, full tilt, cheeks flapping in the wind. I owed that crazy kid so much more.
That’s the thing. No matter what I was doing – riding a bike, performing on stage, or interviewing for a job – when I looked back and didn’t see Dad right there ready to catch me, it didn’t matter. I pedalled faster and harder, because I knew he was there to scrape me off the pavement. And I guess, with that kind of wind at your back, you just don’t fall very often.
Maybe that’s why his death didn’t stop me from striving to be happy. In the beginning, I thought everything was ruined forever. What was the point in anything anymore with Dad not here to see it? But with time I found perspective, by finding meaning in his death. He wasn’t there when I published a book of my own. He wasn’t there at the launch when I talked about how he inspired me. He wasn’t there when I launched my second human into the universe either. He was barely around long enough to meet the first one. It’s sad that he has missed so much, and that we have missed so much of him. But I guess I’m okay because I still feel him back there, ya know? The way he always was. Not holding my hand every step of the way, but in the background. The net beneath the trapeze. The trampoline below the burning building. He’s still playing that part for me somehow. A little through Mom. A little through memory. So much has changed, but in some ways it’s very much the same.
These days, we hear so much about helicopter parenting. Moms and Dads who hover around their kids, watching their every move, swooping in to save them at the first sign of trouble. I guess my dad was less like a helicopter and more like a spool of string on a kite, hanging out on the ground while the kite (that’s me) soared and looped and sometimes even nose-dived into crowds of innocent bystanders. I don’t think his style of parenting was intentional. He was just being himself. He truly did prefer to read and write and listen to the news than pay attention to the likes of me, silly lowly dirt child. But I think it all worked out somehow, so maybe he’s the model father after all. Maybe he is the one to emulate. What I learned from him: Don’t be your kids’ everything. Give them the tools they need to fix it themselves. Light the path but don’t walk it with them. And they’ll be okay when, one day, they’re writing about your birthday, and how you would have been 74 years old today, and what a great parent you were in your own weird way, and how they can let you go because you let them go a long time ago and that’s how they learned to fly.
When I went to university, I had dial-up Internet. If you’re under 30, that probably sounded a lot like: blah blah university blah blah word word. Basically, before broadband technology, many moons before smart phones, we had to use our home telephones to connect to the Internet. Like, ew.
I’d click the button with my mouse, wait for the telephone connection to establish, make a sandwich, feed my brontosaurus, read the Complete Works of Shakespeare, and listen to the zany screech of my giant computer as it configured and synchronized to prepare for data transfer. This could take up to 20 seconds. Sometimes the connection failed and I’d have to try all over again. Like, cringe.
But the delay was bearable because hey – it was 1996. Cell phones looked like bricks. Apple was just a fruit. Mark Zuckerberg was eating cheese puffs in his parents’ basement. Tweeting was for birds. Digital cameras cost a kidney and your firstborn. And parents lined up for days to buy the decade’s most innovative gadget – Tickle Me Elmo. This dinosaur dial-up system was cutting freakin’ edge.
But if I had to go back to it now, I’d freak. Today, the Internet is immediate. Day or night, I tap my laptop to wake it up from sleep mode, or slide my finger across my mini Internet machine (iPhone) to reveal the app screen, and BAM I can find anyone and anything I need in seconds. The world is at my fingertips, 24-seven. And it has improved way more than my fingertips. It has made me a better* person all around. And not just because I can now Google “how to be a better person.”
It has made me smarter. Every known fact is a click away. The moment a news story breaks, I’m on it like a bonnet. What kind of numbskull goes skipping through the fields with the woodland creatures when there’s a boatload of information to be consumed online? Sorry chipmunks, I’m busy learning over here. I panic when my phone goes dead because every second offline is precious mind-enriching time. Thanks to Youtube, I can watch a tutorial on how to change a diaper, change a tire, or change my underwear without taking my pants off. Because of Facebook, I know the very moment my aunt Ethel is making a tunafish casserole. And with WebMD, I am now a medical doctor in my spare time. Conversely, I no longer need to know how to spell (LOL!), which leaves valuable brain space for reading about serial killers on Wikipedia, finding my ex’s house on Google Earth, and discovering what happens to stuff when you microwave it.
I am saving the planet. No more newspapers – yuck. No more greeting cards – yay, e-cards. No more handwritten letters – do I look like Lucy Maude Montgomery? I pay my bills online. I chat with friends online. I write in Microsoft Word, not a notebook. Thanks, Internet. You’re welcome, trees.
I enjoy more me time.No waiting in line at banks – three cheers for online banking. No more dialing numbers to get a pizza – I order online in a snap. No walking around the mall – online shopping is the bomb dot com. And no high school reunions required – let’s just start a Facebook group where we don’t have to do sit-ups for six months prior, okay? Okay, good. And, you know what all this saved time adds up to? More time for cat videos. Sweet action.
I am a friend to the world.Social media connects me with people, far and wide. Sure, some of them are potential stalkers who want to cut me up into little pieces, but I never leave the house so it’s all good. It also connects me with old acquaintances. You know, people whose body parts I may have touched with my body parts. I can rekindle old romances in case my current one falls through. Girl guides motto: be prepared.
I am an emotional rock. I no longer bottle up my feelings. Instead, I tweet on a whim, post Facebook rants, and send accidental texts to the wrong person. It’s so liberating to just put it all out there.
I am an entrepreneur. What’s the point in having a scrapbook of new, innovative chicken nugget shapes tucked away in a drawer where millions of people can’t enjoy it? Thanks to the Internet, I can share my bird-brained ideas with the world, inspire my kids with my entrepreneurial spirit, and earn some cash to pay for their therapy.
I’m keeping the romance alive. My husband and I text each other from opposite sides of the couch. He says sexy things like, “How’s your blog post coming along?” I say sexy things back like, “What level are you on?” He’s a Candy Crush champion. An architect of the gummy bear gods. I always dreamed of marrying someone who can stack multi-coloured, graphic candies into straight lines.
I’m continually humbled.Most bloggers don’t like trolls. Neither do I – I love them. Hidden deep inside their illogical rage are some very humbling insights and opinions. I’m also humbled when some lucky ducks post pictures of themselves in front of the Eiffel Tower, knowing I will never have the cash to get there. No matter how big in the britches I get, thank goodness I can always count on the Internet machine to knock me down a peg.
I’m a better daughter. I connect with my mom more often since she killed dad with her cooking and signed up for Facebook and bought an iPad. I mean, sure she writes directly on my wall thinking it’s a private message, asking me about my rash. And she hasn’t found the spacebar yet so everything she writes looksalotlikethis. And she messages every other night to ask me how to get rid of the little blinking vertical line on her screen. Mom, for the hundredth time, it’s the cursor. The Internet has brought us together like no cup of tea or organ transplant ever could.
It has made me more efficient.With mobile Internet, I multitask like a boss. I cross the street while reading the headlines on Twitter. I eat while trolling recipes to find ideas for what to eat next. I blog while bathing. I spend time with my kids while scrolling through pics of other people’s kids. When most people use the bathroom, they just stare at the pattern on the shower curtain. Not this juggler of all the things. Just this morning, phone in hand, I replied to 17 emails, learned how to fold that pesky sheet with the elastic at the corners, watched a squirrel carve a pumpkin, and signed an online petition to bring back purple ketchup. All while bleaching my moustache. Bam.
Thanks, Internet. You’ve made me a better* person.
* I also signed an online petition to create a sarcasm font.
It was six weeks ago, the week of February 22nd, when the girls hung it up for good.
The week I stopped breastfeeding my second and last baby and the old floppers officially retired from Boobietown.
I can’t pinpoint the exact moment or even the day, but that was the week. Somewhere in the scattered sucks and swigs, between Monday and Sunday, she let go of the taste of me and phased me out for good. We got there gradually, so I never felt engorged, and she never felt deprived. It just happened. That was the week. The week we weaned. Wean Week. I was a weaner. I MAKE JOKES WHEN I’M SAD.
People don’t usually think about breastfeeding until they have children. (Or unless they have some sick milky tit fetish.) I was 29 years old, sitting in the office of a surgeon on LeMarchant Road, about to talk titty for the first time.
My mother had recently been diagnosed with breast cancer at age 55, not seven months after her retirement party. She had her breast removed and was undergoing chemotherapy. We had grieved the news and bought the wig and felt all the feelings and done all the things. And now I was doing something I needed to do – whatever I could to make sure this didn’t happen to me, or if it did, to catch it early. My mom’s mother had had breast cancer too. So did several of her cousins. So did my dad’s sister and half-niece. Basically breast cancer was gyrating through my DNA. Scary shit. But they turned me away at radiology at St. Clare’s – too young for a mammogram, they said, even though my family doctor had sent me. I remember leaving the hospital feeling confused but relieved. That dreaded squeeze of my chesticles in a wafflemaker would wait another day… or decade.
(FYI I eventually went through genetic counselling. All things considered, their final recommendation was mammograms starting at age 40, ten years earlier than normal. I was low to medium risk, not high. Great – I’d be feeling myself up for the next ten years. Andrew generously vowed to help me.)
He would be vowing to do way more than that in a just a few months. My wedding dress was simple: ivory, lace, formfitting but stretchy – comfortable for dancing, so I could get down with my bad self at the Legion. It also had a deep V in the back, so I couldn’t wear a bra. I had these rubbery pads that stuck onto my breasts to give me some lift, and keep my nipples from stealing the thunder from my face. These are the things I was concerned with as a new bride with a semi-charmed life, before Mom called me on that terrible Tuesday with the news and I cried in my office and went home early with Cancer in the passenger seat. After that call, a lot of things mattered way less, and a lot of other things mattered way more.
The surgeon’s only advice: “Have at least one baby and breastfeed from both breasts.” If those weren’t her exact words, they’re pretty close. It’s hard to focus on people’s words when you’ve got Death staring at you from a faux leather chair across the room, flipping through Time magazine. But I recorded it in my memory. A simple set of instructions with no guarantee, but it was something: “Have at least one baby and breastfeed from both breasts.” The Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation said so too: “…evidence suggests that [breastfeeding] can reduce the risk of developing breast cancer. The biggest benefits are from longer periods of breastfeeding, for a year or more with one child or over several births.” How ironic that staying alive is so entwined with keeping someone else alive. It’s like life creates more life or something. Life is so damn weird.
And it was weird to even think about. I never fancied myself the motherly type, and here I was talking about using my dirty pillows to feed a tiny human. Breastfeeding. Feeding…with my breasts. GAH. Couldn’t we call them boobs at least? Hooters? Double lattes? “Breasts” was so… mature, so sophisticated, so anatomical. I couldn’t even sing along to Pearl Jam’s Jeremy without cringing when “he bit the recess lady’s breast.”
I got pregnant on our wedding night in a suite at the Marriott on Duckworth Street. Or possibly 48 hours earlier, in the bathroom at home. I know, I know. That’s how I remember it so clearly. It was one or the other, but the wedding night knock-up is accurate enough and doesn’t have a toilet in it, so that’s the story I tell.
We didn’t try to get pregnant. But we didn’t prevent it either, for the first time. (Do yourself a favour and never ask me to give a speech on how the withdrawal technique is an ineffective method of birth control.) And ya know, it really wasn’t because I was eager to have a baby to breastfeed and ward off the big C, as the good doctor advised. It was because my mother – the grandmother of my possible maybe kids – already had it.
We scheduled her chemo treatments around the wedding day so she wouldn’t be vomiting into a bucket. We styled her wig in our hands. I was no bridezilla, I didn’t make much fuss, but this – THIS was not how my wedding day was supposed to be. And yet here we were. My brother had married in his early twenties and had two half-grown boys already. I had waited. Now part of me wished I hadn’t. What if my mother never got to meet my children? What if she never got to make them quilts or bake them muffins? I was feeling the weight of my own mortality and all of our time running out.
Max was born into quiet chaos in the spring of 2009. The crocuses were just poking their heads through the thawing ground, but beautiful things couldn’t fix this. In a cruel twist of fate, it was my dad fighting for his life now. Less than six months after Mom’s mastectomy, Dad was diagnosed with advanced colon cancer. I found out I was pregnant the same day he had a grapefruit-size tumour removed from his bowel. A week before Max was due, Dad went into surgery to have a piece of his diseased liver removed – a chance to prolong his life. When they opened him up, they discovered tiny spots of cancer in his abdomen, and closed him up again. I got the news on the way to the hospital from my obstetrician’s office. I was big and round and sad. I was a big, round, sad pumpkin waddling through the Health Sciences Centre, having a baby and losing a dad.
Max arrived a couple weeks later, just enough time for Dad’s incision and our hearts to heal. He came to the hospital and held his new grandson in his arms.
The physical pain of Max’s birth distracted from the heartache that crouched in the corner of every room. I had torn pretty badly, and the pain continued at the breast. Max fed ravenously. It hurt – every time. My toes curled. I bit my lip. I dreaded feeding time, which was all the time. And if my husband came near these gerber servers, oh hell no. I felt raw – up top and down below. I stuck it out for ten months, and finally threw in the towel (and the udder cover) a couple weeks after Dad died. I just didn’t have the strength to fight the pain anymore – not the kind of pain that was optional. I could give myself a break now. It was time.
My blog was soon born and I published an article about breastfeeding: Breast is Best. It’s also the Worst. It hit the Huffington Post and went viral. It was the truth about breastfeeding. My truth, but one shared by many other women. Breastfeeding was not what they told us it would be. It’s magical, they said. It’s wonderful, they said. Liar, liar, maternity pants on fire. Some said my story discouraged new and future mothers from giving their babies the best start in life. I should have kept my story to myself, I guess, or sugar-coated it for the good of all future humankind. Sorry, that’s not how I roll. I discovered that there were so many women out there who were feeling just like me, but afraid to say so. They felt guilty about being unsuccessful or unhappy breastfeeders, because according to the books and commercials, we were supposed to be smiling from ear to ear and nip to nip. Finally the truth was setting us all free. And I don’t mean just releasing us all from the shackles of breastfeeding, although that’s what some moms do and everyone’s happier for it. I mean keeping us all going, persevering in spite of the shitty bits, because we know the struggle is real and it’s not in our heads and we are in this together. Who cares that I had hardcore La Leche Leaguers tsk-tsk-ing me for my story. I was happy to take one for the teats.
The following year, I published the story in my book, MotherFumbler (Breakwater Books, 2013). It became the story I read at public appearances. I read it at my book launch and watched the crowd crack up, including my mother. Boobs, fun bags, dairy pillows, sweater meat, meat puppets, Super Big Gulps: I said it all, lady balls out. It was funny, unfiltered, and true. These breasts that once gave me such grief were now giving everyone a chuckle. Multi-purpose, motherfuckers.
Max grew like a dandelion on the lawn. He sprouted into a toddler, then a little boy, right before my eyes. My pictures of him from month to month as he sat in the same rocking chair holding the same stuffed elephant… It’s like someone swooped down and replaced one baby with another. A drunk stork maybe. OR ALIENS.
My breasts on which he once feasted changed too. The perky torpedoes from my wedding day morphed into bulbous zeppelins and then into deflated flesh sacks, like Ziploc bags a quarter-full of gravy. Fried fucking eggs. BEE STINGS. But I didn’t care. I joked about it a lot. I wrote about it in my book. It freaked me out how a tiny human could cause such destruction. But I didn’t care, not really. My lady garden was a war zone. I had watched my mother lose her breast and almost her life. I had watched my father die before my eyes. I was well past perky tits.
Five years passed. I wrote about parenthood on my blog, in the local arts and culture newspaper, on the Huffington Post. I wrote about my indecision around having another baby and had a few man-children and Bible-thumpers tell me I should have my uterus removed. FUN.
My breasts enjoyed the freedom five. They even forgot they were food and felt sexual again. I’m a logical person, so why on earth would I do all this yucky stuff over? Seriously, who in their damn mind would willingly subject themselves to that kind of pain A SECOND TIME? It’s like walking into a creepy ass cave knowing full well there’s a bear inside who’s going to majorly fuck you up.
My husband didn’t concur. Probably because by the time his father was his age, he had seven children. (Yes, SEVEN, as in dwarves, deadly sins, and nation army.) And probably because Max didn’t come from his genitals. Un-fuckin-fortunately. He communicated his desire for a second kid very sweetly and maturely by saying things like, “If we don’t do this by the time I’m 35, I’m getting a vasectomy.” Which really made me feel appreciated and willing to sacrifice my body a second time to produce another noble heir.
I waited it out until the stakes were too high on my 36-year-old eggs, and Max could tie his shoes. And, without too much discussion or debate, we pulled the goalie.
A couple weeks later, I was visiting my friend who had been recently diagnosed with breast cancer at the ripe old age of 35. I told her my period was late, which rarely happens. She went and fetched something from her bathroom. Before her diagnosis, the yet undiscovered cancer was giving her prego-like symptoms so she bought a pregnancy test from the drugstore. There were two pee sticks in the pack. She handed me the other one. The irony of the moment was not lost on either of us.
I took it home with a full bladder. It was something I had to do at home, in my own bathroom, with my own silly dog sniffing at the door. So if the result was positive, I could react however I needed to – throw myself onto the bed, or down a well, whatever. The tell-tale double lines appeared almost immediately, like it didn’t even need to think about it, that’s how pregnant I was. I thought about telling Andrew the news in some clever way but I wasn’t even sure how I felt or how he’d feel so I told him immediately with a blank face and a monotone voice: “Robot husband, your robot wife is having a robot baby, bleep boop bleep.” We both kind of smirked at our fertile bastard status and embraced awkwardly for a minute on the edge of the bed. Here we go again, I guess. I stuck the pee stick in my underwear drawer to revisit it later. Maybe my socks would coax the truth out and I’d return to a negative result. Socks can be persuasive like that. Nope – still pregnant. Shit got real, real fast. Within days, my boobs were tender as boils. And nine months later, the congo bongos were in full milk-producing action.
Rae was born two days before Christmas, 2014. Her big brother, now nearly six years old, burst into the birthing suite at 8:30pm with his pajama shirt sticking up from under his sweater, the rest of the family pouring in behind him. Everyone talks about the benefits of having your kids close together, and I get that. But then I look at this picture of Max proudly holding his sister and whoa. That face.
Even before I knew how the breastfeeding would go this time, I told myself I would write a second article. Breast is Best. It’s also the Worst:THE SEQUEL. My story, my truth, the second time around. Even if it meant admitting I was wrong.
I WAS WRONG.
I won’t say it was magical. I will never say that. I didn’t give birth to a unicorn with a rainbow pouring out of her butthole. But this time, it was completely and utterly/udderly different. I was a professional. I had a PhD in suckling humans. Rae was a little jaundiced when we took her home, so I fed her often and propped her up in the window in nothing but a diaper, like baking a peach pie in the sun. After the initial three weeks with my tender melons covered in cabbage leaves to combat the engorgement, it was smooth sucking all the way. No pain. No discomfort. No hesitation. I whipped ‘em out anywhere, all the time. My nipples felt nothing but generous, convenient, and useful. I fattened up a living, breathing person while watching Netflix, pausing to admire her eyelashes and her chubby hand resting on my collarbone. I fed her at the swimming pool while Max did cannonballs. I sat on a picnic blanket in Bannerman Park after bootcamp and refuelled the human before going to the grocery store. I topped up my squishy Ewok in the shade of a tree at Disney World, then watched her brother become a Jedi. It was glorious. Rae was a champ. She packed on the pounds – in the 95th percentile for height and weight from day one. I stopped going to the breastfeeding clinics to get her weighed because I felt ridiculous. The proof was in the puddin’: Rae could have eaten the other children. I even started plying the ol’ doinkers up from my bra, instead of down – even less fussing around with snaps and fabric. I was a breastfeeding ninja. A well-oiled milk machine.
Maybe it’s because the setting was so different this time. No father fighting cancer in the background. No Death lurking in the shadows going “tick, tock, Mommy” pointing to the clock on the wall and laughing.
Or maybe round one killed my nipples and they had lost all sensation.
Or maybe she was just a different baby with a better latch, simple as that.
Whatever. This is my follow-up. My sequel to my most popular post to date, after six years of blogging. That was my truth at that time. With that baby. With that me. It is not my truth today. With this baby. With this me.
I’m not sorry for writing it. The truth can never be wrong. But I do apologize if it deterred anyone from giving it a shot. Breastfeeding is not magical for a whole lot of mothers, so maybe we should all stop saying it is. But admittedly, with the right conditions, it can be pretty sweet. I see that now. I encourage you to try it. Stick it out for the first few weeks, if you can. The first three weeks are the worst. It usually gets better after that, I swear to the cantaloupe gods.
And then, before you know it, it’s over. Rae has forgotten about it already. The other morning we were lying in bed and my robe fell open. Before February 22nd, she would have seen my nipple and pounced, mouth open, like an aardvark on a mound of ants. This time she laughed and flicked it with her finger. It wasn’t food anymore. It was just a funny looking button. I kept her alive with little more than my body for a year and she has forgotten it in a flick, quite literally. We still have our moments. As soon as I get home and pick her up, she sticks her thumb in her mouth and jams her hand down my top. It’s comfort, I guess. Warmth. This is our thing now. But one day, this too will end. Before I know it, I’ll be buying her a bra of her own. Life is so damn weird.
But it was my first baby, who’ll be seven years old in a couple weeks holy crap how did that happen, who made me lament Wean Week the most. We had a tough time that first year, Max and I. But we made it through together, and we’re here and we’re strong. The week after I left Boobietown, I was lying with him at bedtime and I told him Rae would be going to visit Nanny for a couple nights, which was okay now that I wasn’t breastfeeding her anymore. He looked at me with eyes wide and glossy. “So… I can’t have a try now?” He was dead serious. Max had always wanted to see what my milk tasted like, fascinated by my nursing Rae and the fact that he fed there too, for the better part of his first year on earth. I had always meant to give him a swally before it was too late, somehow, but it never seemed like the right moment. I had forgotten, and now it was impossible. It was the end of an era. Boobietown was a ghost town. SAD FACE.
But no, I’m not getting an amulet made from my breastmilk. Or a tattoo of my tit on my tit. But I can’t say I didn’t think about it.
What I did get from all this is a greater appreciation for my own body, my own breasts. Not how they look in a bra – I’m okay with my itty bitty titties. Not how they feel in my hands – like half-filled water balloons. But how they’ve served me well. For Max, for Rae, for my health (I hope), I’ve done all that I can do. In fact, these puppies have done us all such a solid, I should respect them enough to stop laughing at them when I step out of the shower and see myself in the mirror. Besides, these sweet little pancakes will slap onto the mammogram tit-squisher pretty easily in a couple years, so that’s another plus right there.
Have you seen the new provincial tourism commercials? They’re lovely and colourful and do a great job at highlighting our assets and hiding the ugly bigotry that’s alive and well here in Newfoundland and Labrador. I guess “prejudice” and “old boy’s club” were not key benefits on the creative brief. That’s what you get for all dem dolla bills.
But have no fear, citizens of earth. We can always count on the people of this fine province to shine a big fat national spotlight on our backwoods hillbilly bullshit for free.
Bigots are everywhere, no doubt, not just here. But I don’t live everywhere. I live here, and so do my children, and so will my grandchildren most likely. So here is where I’m concerned. Here is where I got a problem.
I was listening to CBC radio on my drive home from work last week, and they aired a call from a man who was giving his opinion on the recent news story about a local jeweler who had placed an anti-gay marriage sign in his store window. It read: Man + Woman = Marriage God’s Way, Genesis 2:24.
He went on for several minutes of my life that I will never get back but, in a nutshell, he said that he supported the business owner’s right to put a sign in his window because everyone is entitled to their opinion and free speech and blah blah blah word word word and “the gay crowd” need to just suck it up. THE GAY CROWD. He said it several times and with such contempt, he may as well have been calling them shit-eating zombie fuckers.
After his call was aired (and then another one by a lady who thinks we should leave the homosexuals alone because God will be their judge), the radio host’s voice chimed in to politely say, “Thanks for your opinions.” Yes, thanks for the gonorrhea too, buddy. Much appreciated.
Then this week, my newsfeed was inundated with the glorious goings-on in Spaniard’s Bay where a woman exposed the sexist culture at the local volunteer fire station where she is the lone female firefighter (and most qualified, by the way), and half the department quit and we hope nobody’s frying chips on the stove in Spaniard’s Bay tonight, and missus gets called a “conniving witch” who’s out for the chief’s job, and half the town assemble in protest to show support for “their men” who have been so horribly wronged by these allegations of sexual harassment. CBC broke the story and it quickly made national headlines. Yes, right now when the rest of the country thinks of Newfoundland and Labrador, they’re not thinking of the beautiful scenery featured in our tourism commercials. They’re thinking of a fireman filling another fireman’s hat with jizz. Excellent. Very majestic. The papers deliver just the facts, of course: she alleges this, he says that, they all claim this and that and everything else. Journalism.
Ahem. You know what? I’m not a journalist and this is my blog and I can say whatever the fuck I want and not even my mom can stop me though she’ll probably try, so guess what? WHAT THE FUCK. WHAT. IN. THE. ACTUAL. FUCK.
FUCK THAT GUY ON THE RADIO. Fuck thanking him for his “opinions.” He was an ignorant prick. In the tone of his voice, thinly THINLY veiled in polite words so CBC would actually be able to air the thing, I discerned stupidity, arrogance, and contempt. If he was willing to say this on the radio, what does he say in real life? What does he REALLY think of my gay friends? (Two of whom are getting married tonight, by the way. Congrats, Amy and Katie!) And what, oh dear baby jesus in the garden, is he teaching his children and his grandchildren? I’ll take a pass on those play dates, thank you very much. FUCK THAT GUY. Also, fuck that jewelry store owner. I don’t want my kids seeing your fucking sign, you Old Testament twit.
And you know what else? To anyone in Spaniard’s Bay or any damn place who thinks you gotta be “one of the boys” to work among them: FUCK YOU. How about we all step out of the time warp and be “one of the humans.” And if you’re teaching your kids, directly or indirectly, that women need to just shut their mouths and know their place, SHAME ON YOU. It’s one thing to be an asshole yourself. It’s quite another to teach that assholery to your kids and deny them the chance to be someone better. Sounds like child abuse to me.
Fuck you, radio caller guy – not because I’m concerned for my gay friends and family. We don’t need to defend them anymore because it’s 2016 and there’s nothing to defend and never was. They are strong and would crush your caveman ass with their laughter. What concerns me is that you bastards still exist in the same world as my kids. My son is almost seven years old and still learning about life, and straight or gay or ponysexual whatever the fuck that is I don’t even care, he’s still trying to make sense of the world. And by some horrible stroke of bad and terrible luck, he might come across the likes of you and be exposed to your brand of epic crap. Imagine if he had heard you on the radio, he might have thought, “IT’S ON THE RADIO SO IT MUST BE TRUE. AND THE NICE NEWS GUY SAID ‘THANKS,’ SO IT MUST BE RIGHT.” Mind you, if he had been in the car, I would have slammed the radio off so hard I would have tuned in Tokyo for real. Or maybe I would have left the radio on and used it as an opportunity to teach Max about horrible people like Hitler, and you. We would have a nice long chat and look up the word “bigot” in the dictionary. I think my son is smart enough to resist your hateful poppycock, but even if one ounce of it trickles into his mind, if one speck of his love and understanding and humanity is replaced with arrogance and hatred, someone will pay. I WILL NOT HAVE IT.
And fuck you in Spaniard’s Bay too, BECAUSE MY KIDS ARE HERE AND RIGHT NOW THAT’S NOT FAR ENOUGH AWAY FROM YOU. And I’ll be damned if I let one single droplet of your bullshit spill onto them. The news coverage of the rally showed children holding signs that said “support our men” and I had to check the calendar to see which year it was, and check the mirror to see if I was sporting a beehive, and I was almost disappointed to realize it was 2016 and my hair was on trend because it meant YOU PEOPLE ACTUALLY EXIST. What scares me most is what the kids are gathering from all this. THEY’RE KIDS. Their brains aren’t fully developed yet. Even if you folks in Spaniard’s Bay were right about everything (FYI you’re not, everything out of your mouths has only helped confirm Seymour’s claims), your kids are learning to NEVER TRUST A WOMAN WHO SPEAKS UP. And what’s worse, your daughters are learning to NEVER SPEAK UP AGAINST THE MEN and NEVER REPORT SEXUAL HARASSMENT because NOBODY WILL BELIEVE YOU. Imagine how many times a child has overheard the word “bitch” or “whore” or worse in reference to Brenda Seymour this week. I’m sure that won’t breed any misogyny at all. You should erect a new statue in the town square of a fireman holding his big giant hose, with water splashing into the faces of the tiny womenfolk. That should draw some support.
Are the residents of Spaniard’s Bay bad people? Absolutely not. I probably know a few of them. And, being a bayman myself, with a baygirl t-shirt and a thick Bonavista Bay accent, I’m in tune with outport life. I respect it. Not all baymen are backwoods hillbillies. It’s important to know that. Rumour has it there was a rally in the town today to show support for Brenda Seymour and, more importantly, calling for community-wide education on sexual harassment. I hope the country of Spain hears this so they change their minds on wanting their name back and stop pretending they were never here.
Are the male firefighters there bad guys? Not at all. I’m willing to bet they’re all generally good fellows. What they are guilty of, though, is living in the dark ages, when you could make comments in the workplace like “I jerked in your hat,” and you didn’t have to DO SOMETHING (besides laugh) when a dude played a porn video as part of your team’s training, and you didn’t have to take ambitious women seriously because nobody else ever did and nobody cares. But, see, ignorance is no excuse for treating people like shit. Just because you don’t KNOW you’re behaving badly doesn’t mean you aren’t, and it doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. So now they must make amends out there in Spaniard’s Bay. You know, by getting schooled on what sexual harassment actually is, and how a toxic work environment can be created by the best of people when they just don’t understand shit, and how we need women in positions of leadership because HELLO, it’s 2016. And please please PLEASE, don’t forget to teach the children. As soon as possible too, to get the poison out. Perhaps if we had all been taught this stuff early, none of this would be happening. And maybe, once they all see the light, they can apologize to Brenda Seymour. Maybe even thank her, as I do, on behalf of all our daughters and sons. Thank her for bravely pushing this all too common bullshit out into the light, clearing the path for education and change and bearing the backlash herself, so my little girl can grow up and be anything she wants to be including the god damn FIRE CHIEF, and my son can grow up and never find himself in this kind of hot water.
Ahhhh, it’s great to be a blogger.
And I thought I was pissed off about the price of vegetables.
2016. It sounds so space age, and yet here you are, just a notch above zero, with your whole life ahead of you. By the time you can read this, maybe the hoverboard will be a real thing. Or maybe it’ll be a real thing in about 30 years… when you invent it.
Time flies, girl. Last Christmas, they stuffed all eight and a half pounds of you into a stocking and placed you in my arms for the first time. This Christmas, you hung your own stocking. Then promptly yanked it down. Babies.
We had a great first year together, didn’t we? All last spring, we went to mama ‘n baby bootcamp where you were the kid that never cried and I was the mom who almost keeled over pushing a stroller up Leslie Street. Sometimes I wished you would cry so I’d have an excuse to stop doing burpees. I got callouses on my hands on the way back down Leslie Street with the stroller. I swear, I’ve never held onto anything so tight my whole life.
You love music. We kick it old school with the lullabies. Our song is Eternal Flame by The Bangles. (One of the first all-female rock bands — you will love them.) I’ve been singing that song to you since you were born. Your brother can sing it word for word. Now that you’re walking, I think it might be time to Walk Like An Egyptian.
Your current favourite is The Mummer’s Song. There’s a bulb on the Christmas tree that plays it – a gift from Nanny Murphy, because you’ve got hers worn out. You clap to the music and bob your head up and down. You’re quite the dancer. Hear the subtlest beat and you break out in a spontaneous groove session. Your signature moves are the mini squat and the double arm flap. Poppy Jim had the same moves. Thanks for reminding me of him.
We live just a couple minutes from Nan and Pop Murphy now. Pretty awesome, right? You’re going to be spending a lot of time with them now that I’m back to work. Please keep the diaper blowouts to a minimum so they won’t rescind on their offer to babysit you. Just last week Poppy said how thrilled he was that he would get to experience all your joy and not somebody else. We are going to bake him some date squares (his favourite) this week. Well, let’s face it – I’m going to bake them while you hurl all the Tupperware out of the cupboard.
Your new room is pink. I’m not painting it anytime soon, so go ahead and love pink if you want. It’s cool. But I really want you to know that you can like whatever colours you want, and play with whatever you want (you know, except matches and knives.) Remember — half the dinosaurs were girls! Everything is for everybody, kid. Don’t let them tell you any different.
You won’t remember your old house, but you had pretty green wallpaper on your bedroom, and the floor creaked when we crept in to check on you, and the sunlight poured in in a dreamy way, and there were ponies down the street, and when we’d hike on the Gallows Cove Trail you’d fall asleep in the carrier and miss all the natural beauty but I got to see twice as much with you, beautiful you, in my view.
Yes. It’s time for the part where I say how lovely you are. You’re a feminist, obviously, so one day you’re going to be mad that I mentioned how you look at all. (You’re also going to resent the fact that your first movie at the theatre was Magic Mike 2. Sawry.) Go ahead and get mad. I’ll be proud that you did. People are going to tell you you’re pretty or plain or skinny or fat or this or that your whole life, and I hope with all my might that your wisdom about that comes early: none of it matters, not one little bit. Just last week when the new Stars Wars movie came out, Carrie Fisher (who played Princess Leia) said, “Youth and beauty are not accomplishments.” Listen to smart, strong women like that, will you? It will help you navigate the bullshit poop.
Oh, and by the way, Star Wars named their new hero after you. They spelled it differently to be sneaky, but we know what they’re up to. I guess your next Halloween costume is figured out. If you’d rather be Strawberry Shortcake, that’s okay too.
For the record only, here’s how you look at one year old: Your hair is a honey brown colour, like golden sugar. It’s getting long, so we have to brush it to the side to keep it out of your eyes. It’s straight, surprisingly; when Max was your age, he looked like the white Lionel Richie.
You’re in the 95th percentile for size: 26 pounds and 30 inches tall. Your cheeks and thighs are chubby and squishy and I hope they stay that way forever, and I hope you don’t care very much if they do.
Your eyes are dark mocha, beneath long, sweeping lashes and those distinguished Murphy brows. Combined with full, bow-shaped lips, you often look super serious, like you’re thinking about all the things that don’t make sense in the world. Which is a lot of things. When you grow up, you’re going to change some of those things. I will help you.
Sometimes when we’re driving, I glance in the rearview mirror to see if you’re okay back there, and you’re staring out the car window looking pensive and concerned. Watching the trees whizz by. Taking in the world. This is one of my favourite things to look at: you, thinking, wondering, learning.
That serious look complements your pointing habit. You’re always pointing. You’re a pointing junkie! When we’re at a restaurant, you turn to a stranger nearby and point right at his eye, like you’re picking him out of a line-up. “That’s your guy. He stole the microfilm.” Then you pass him your sippy cup. Truce.
You point because you’re curious and smart. You know where your nose is, and your ears, eyes, mouth, hair, tongue, and toes. We ask you where your tongue is and you stick that sucker out all the way to Florida. You also know where the vacuum plug-in goes. (Um, could you un-know that, please?) You can woof like a puppy dog and baa like a sheep. You like to say “baby” a lot. A couple nights ago, you woke up every hour and shouted “bayyyyyy-bee.” Which was 51 per cent annoying, and 49 per cent cute. It went something like this:
Other than my emotions, your favourite thing to play with is water. You practically climb into the bathtub headfirst as I undress you. Let’s go swimming more in your second year on Earth, okay? Let’s try and stay awake though. Last time you went swimming, you fell asleep in the pool while sucking your thumb.
You don’t have a favourite toy yet. You got a new kitchen for Christmas but you’re still trying to figure out what all the round things are (they’re plates.) You play with your brother’s trains. You hug your dolly and say “awwww.” You do the same thing to the remote control. Your love knows no bounds.
Especially your love for Mommy. As soon as you’re in my arms, you put your thumb in your mouth and snuggle in. Sometimes, when you see me approaching to pick you up, you stick your thumb in and lean your head toward me, assuming the cuddle position before we even touch. You make a low humming sound when you’re finally resting on my collarbone. The sound of contentment. Of coming home. I know the day will come when you don’t do this anymore, so I made this paragraph extra long and detailed, to preserve it real good.
When you’re not staring down a suspect, you’re a happy tot. Last week, Nanny Shirley put you down in your crib and started to sing you to sleep. Without thinking, she softly sang, “If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands,” and up you popped, clapping them chubby paws. That story cracks me up. Your good humour makes up for the fact that you are the worst sleeper in the universe. Yay/Yawn.
When it’s naptime, you wave to the birdies on the wall as we carry you up the stairs. I knew it was a good idea to hang that picture there. “Bah,” you say. “Bah.” Which means either bye-bye, or birdies, or both. Or maybe it just means, “Bah, I don’t need no nap. You fools think I’m going to sleep – bah!”
When other moms tell me their baby sleeps for 14 hours straight, I shoot lasers at them with my eyes. (Just kidding, I’m happy for them, envy is bad.) You usually go to sleep in your own bed, but almost always wake up in ours. I don’t mind. I especially love it when you kick me in the face. And when you turn sideways between Dad and I, rendering our king-size bed a Lilliputian cot. And when you snore like a chainsaw. (Sometimes I can’t tell who’s doing the snoring – you, Daddy, or the dog – so I give all three of you a poke). And when I abruptly wake up at the very moment when you’re about to lunge headfirst off the side of the bed and I suffer a mild coronary. And when I wake up at 5am to find you sitting between us holding my iPhone and laughing, with Siri saying “I don’t understand.” Co-sleeping is a riot.
That laugh though. Oh my. It’s like you’re reading “ha ha” right off the page. We laugh, you laugh more, we all laugh our heads off and all is right with the world.
Your smile slays me too. You tip your head back a little, scrunch up your nose and show your teeth – two little ones on the bottom, four uneven ones on top. Who needs a full set of teeth anyway? You were chewing top sirloin months ago. Your schoolyard nickname shall be Tough Gums.
You love your groceries, especially bananas, carrots, peppers, and green peas. (Let’s face it, I could have put ice cream and cake on that list but I’m trying to look good here and it’s the grandparents’ fault you even know what these things are.) You’ve yet to turn up your nose to anything. Splash waits eagerly under your highchair, but the castoffs are scarce. Which is not really fair, since you’re always mooching off her rations. I’ve scooped Holistic Choice dog food out of your mouth at least a couple dozen times. Yesterday, I caught you facedown in the water dish having a nice drink for yourself. Me nerves.
You love your fur sister, and your human brother. Max makes you laugh more than anyone else. “I make her laugh the best and smile the most,” he says. Hopefully he’ll continue to entertain you for free, now that you’re on the move and crushing his Legos like Baby Godzilla. You don’t crawl anymore at all. It’s all walking now, all the time. Cousin Norah says you walk like you’re riding a horse. Giddy-up, world, here comes Rae.
You are a busy little bugger. The only way for me to cook or wash the dishes is to give you free reign of the Tupperware cupboard. I carry the food from the fridge to the counter to the stove like I’m running an obstacle course in Munchkin City.
It’s hilarious how you sling things out of boxes and drawers. You throw each thing over your shoulder with a swift flick without even looking where it went, then move on to the next item immediately. Packing up to move in the fall was challenging. As fast as I’d pack a box, you’d unpack it. It was 49 per cent annoying, and 51 per cent cute.
Your clothes are mostly hand-me-downs from your friends, Maddy and Sadie. We’re saving our money for medical school. Or art school. Whatever, you decide.
You don’t have much interest in TV, despite my efforts to plop you down in front of Sesame Street with a cracker so I can go poop. Probably because I binge-watched a dozen series on Netflix when you were an infant and thanks to my violent sobbing during Call the Midwife you now think the TV is just a big shiny box of tears.
You love books though. You turn the pages like a boss. You don’t wait for me to read a page before you’re turning to the next. We don’t make it to the end of one book before you’re pushing a different one in my face. I hope you love to run and dance and sing and swim and paint and build, but above all these things I hope you love to read. Maybe in 2016 we can slow down and point to the pictures.
Your brother’s first word was “stay,” because the dog, then a puppy, never stayed still. Splash is eight years old now (56 in dog years) and way more chill, so your first word was “dada.” I’m okay with this. Dada’s a good guy. In fact, right this second you’re looking out the window while Max skates on the mini ice rink Daddy made in the backyard. Next year, you’ll have skates too.
We’ve been breastfeeding for a whole year – high fives, partner! Since I’m back to work there’s no boob juice flowing in the daytime, but you still have a couple good swigs at night. It’s funny now because you can easily tell me what you want. No matter where we are, you jam your hand down my top and squeeze, like I’m toting a couple of ripe oranges. Sometimes it hurts and makes me scream, but it’s hilarious so I endure. I’m going to write a new article about breastfeeding (I wrote one when Max was a baby, about how horrible it was.) You’ve changed my mind on a good many things.
You have a big year ahead, girl. You’re going to learn all about trees and birds and rocks on the trails of Mount Pearl. You’re going to touch your first caterpillar. (Touch, please, not eat.) We have sidewalks in our new neighbourhood, so you’re going to ride that tricycle like you stole it. We have new friends to meet, new playgrounds to climb, and new books to read. Your brother is quite the scribe these days so maybe he’ll even write a book for you! Let’s hope it’s a little lighter than his last book, which included a page that went: “At home with your wife pregnant.”
I’ve rearranged my priorities a bit for 2016, because of you. A fire has been lit under me these last couple of years when it comes to women’s issues, gender equality, social stuff. Especially now that I have a daughter. I talk about it a lot on my blog and in my articles, trying to make a difference in some small way; silence is for the grave and all that. But I realize the biggest impact I will have in this life is with you and your brother, and when I’m talking about these things to all these other people, I don’t have the time I need to talk to you. So in 2016, I won’t be writing for The Overcast anymore. My ad career and packing Max’s lunchbox are more than enough for me in the Commitments & Deadlines department. The rest of the time, I want to be playing and talking with you. That’s how I’ll change the world – through you and Max. And if there’s time to spare, I will write, and hopefully people will read. You will get the best of me. And I will see, fully, the best of you. You’re only one year old, little girl, but I already know there’s going to be a whole lot to see.
Now now, Canada. Just because our new Prime Minister is a man doesn’t mean we can treat him like a piece of meat. If we had elected JUSTINE Trudeau and everyone was yapping about her ass, we’d be throwing maple syrup all over the place.
Besides, Justin Trudeau is NOT the first hottie at the helm. Here are the Top 15 Hottest Prime Ministers of Canada. (It started as a top 10 list but there was just so much hotness on Parliament Hill. The Hill is basically an active volcano spewing hot lava into my lady cave.) Here we go:
15. Jean Chretien. Yes, I’m serious. In a country that prides itself on including all kinds of people, ol’ squishy face deserves a spot. He didn’t let a little bells palsy stop him from becoming the head freakin’ cheese, and you know what Jean? That makes me randy. Look at it this way: he talks with one side of his mouth and he’s deaf in one ear, so all that unused energy gets channeled to you know where. The man is 80+ years old and still swinging around his French baguette.
14. Sir Mackenzie Bowell. His name sounds like the intestine that poop travels through, but his face doesn’t look shitty at all. Well, what I can see of it under that snow-beard. I think his Cabinet ministers were jealous of his good looks because they said he was incompetent and forced him to step down. Bowell called them “a nest of traitors” and went home to have all the sex. He fathered nine children and lived to be 93, which in those days was like older than Yoda.
13. What’s for supper? Sir Charles Tupper. Mmmm, delicious mutton chops with a side of bow chicka wow. Oh c’mon, this guy was seriously ahead of his time. Facial hair is all the rage now. Charlie Tupps was the original hipster. This picture of him gives me double nipple boners.
12. Alexander Mackenzie, Canada’s sexy answer to Abe Lincoln, except instead of being famous for ending slavery, our bearded boy was famous for something much more significant: introducing the secret ballot. If he wasn’t dead, I’d introduce him to my secret ballot box.
11. John Sparrow David Thompson. I like my prime ministers the same way I like my prime rib: thick and juicy. Thompson was 5 feet 7 inches tall and 225 pounds. Pretty sure they named fat raisins after him. He dropped dead while visiting Queen Victoria in 1894. Went face down in the crumpets. We can’t blame the Brits though. Thompson was from Halifax so we should probably blame the Greeks. Friggen donairs.
10. Kim Campbell. Can we leave the lone lady off a list that sexually objectifies? Is Stephen Harper a good musician?Exactly. Ah, Kim. The political princess with the golden hair, with possibly maybe some brains underneath it somewhere but who really knows or cares let’s just talk about her cute bob and bouncing bajongas. Kimmy is cute as hell and calls her vagina her “portfolio.”
9. Paul Martin. PM was PM from 2003 to 2006. He had the initials, and the baby blues. He also had the polio when he was eight, but that didn’t stop him from developing a serious case of sexyitis. Okay, so Paul’s no supermodel, but he passed a bill that approved same-sex marriage in 2005, making him hot as balls in my books.
8. Pierre Trudeau. Consistently ranked by historians as our #1 Prime Minister, and they don’t even take into account his high cheekbones, epic erections, and sexual rendezvouses avec Barbara Streisand. Pierre was intellectual, charismatic, but most importantly, stylish. He looked fuddle-duddling good in a suit, a fur coat, and…a sailor boy outfit? Yeah, okay, I’d get on that ship. Ladies were hot for this badass who wore sandals and slid down bannisters. Unfortunately it’s too late for me to slide down his. FUDDLE DUDDLE! Justin’s will have to do.
7. Wilfred Laurier, Prime Minister from 1896 to 1911. Canadians loved Laurier for his “sunny ways” – evident in this portrait. (Justin stole that phrase from him, and his hair.) The ladies adored him. In fact, after his death his sexy remains were placed in a stone sarcophagus, adorned by sculptures of nine mourning female figures. Apparently they represent each of the provinces in the union… Likely story, guys. Laurier died of a stroke in 1919. Unfortunately it was not the kind I give with my hand.
6. This Arthur ain’t no aardvark. Arthur Meighen was legit hot. You’ve probably never heard of him because he was Prime Minister for, like, five minutes back in the 1920s. But hey, that’s all you’d need with this piece of gear, amirite? I might be right or Arthur may be hypnotizing me with his crazy sexy eyes.
5. Why the fuss over Justin’s hair? JT’s got nuthin’ on JM. Check out Sir John A. Macdonald‘s do. I’d like to make it a policy to run my fingers through that wig. I don’t even care that he was a raging alcoholic and a horrible racist, this Sir makes me purr. Macdonald was Canada’s first, and I wish he had been mine. I also wish I was a 10-dollar bill so he’d be on me.
4. This Disney prince, John Turner,was Prime Minister of Canada for 79 days in 1984. And whattayaknow – our little prince had a thing with Princess Margaret back in the 50s. He couldn’t marry her though because he was a dirty Mick. Not dirty enough, I say. He eventually married great-niece of John McCrae, author of “In Flanders Fields.” Flanders Fields was also the nickname for Turner’s vast and fragrant ball sack.
3. Lester Pearson. This sexy nerd was in charge from 1963 to 1968. That’s not a bowtie; that’s a seat for the lay-deez. Pearson won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1957 for organizing the United Nations Emergency Force to resolve the Suez Canal Crisis. I’d like him to take a look at my Screwez Canal, see what can be done about that. Pearson also started the Royal Commission on the Status of Women. I can tell you right now, Lester: my current status is horny.
2. Before Tom Selleck there was Sir Robert Borden, Prime Minister of Canada during the First World War. Rumour has it he cheered up war widows with free moustache rides. Borden is on the 100-dollar bill, so I always carry one around in my pocket so his upper lip hair is as close to my vagina as possible. Can Justin even grow a moustache?
1. OH YES, HE CAN. Justin Trudeau, hottest Prime Minister of Canada, ever. I mean, he’s no mutton chops (see #13) but he’ll do. And, he’s all about girl power, multiculturalism, equality, rights, and freedoms. So he’s definitely cool with me showing up at 24 Sussex in a leather mask and dog collar. Justin is my religion now. God I love this country! And hey, if JT wants to lay some pipeline, I’d get behind that. Honestly, I’m just glad I didn’t have to put Ben Mulroney on this list.
A couple nights ago, I got an email from my son’s first-grade teacher, telling me she had chosen Max to speak at the Thanksgiving assembly. We told Max the news, half calm (because it was just a couple lines, not a TedX speech), and half excited (because this was one step closer to our retirement on the coattails of our son, the great orator). After a couple minutes, Max’s pride turned to dread and he started to cry. “I don’t want to do it,” he said. “Not in front of all those people.”
MOMMY TO THE RESCUE.
“Guess what? When Mommy was a little girl, I was afraid to speak in front of people too. But this weekend, in Halifax, I spoke in front of, like, a hundred people!”
“Mom. There’s way more than a hundred people at my school.”
It’s true though. There was a time when I hated public speaking. I was only comfortable talking to my invisible friend, Colin. Colin always got me. He didn’t judge me for making out with my knees in the bathtub. I still get nervous before I approach the microphone; I don’t fully trust anyone who doesn’t. But nowadays, I enjoy a little limelight. And — I can’t even believe I’m saying this — there’s never enough people in the room. The way I see it — if I’ve done all the prep and my speech is solid and my hair looks good and I don’t have diarrhea, the room may as well be packed. Sorry, Colin, I’ve grown.
I like a packed room — just one of the things I learned about myself this weekend at BlogJam in Halifax, the first ever bloggers’ conference in Atlantic Canada, at the schnazzy Marriott Hotel on the waterfront. ‘Twas a full day of speakers on all things blog, from widgets to Wordpress, from how to find your voice to how to find the clitoris (I’m paraphrasing.) I was one of the keynote speakers, starting off the day with a bang (and a few fucks), at 9am on a Sunday. Like ya would.
Here’s a close-up on my opening slide. I’ll post the whole presentation soon, I swear. It will probably change your life. Or at least your night. Okay, your underwear. It will at least make you change your underwear.
There were sessions happening at the same time all day, so I had to quickly decide which ones to attend, and which ones to slip out of in order to go check on my widdle durl who was locked in a safe in my hotel room upstairs. Relax. It’s a SAFE.
Just kidding. I actually dropped her off at the orphanage.
Here are a few other things I learned at BlogJam:
1. There are a lot of bloggers in this region. According to fake statistics, only 10% of bloggers come forward to attend bloggers’ conferences.
2. It’s a warm, inviting blogging community we have here in Atlantic Canada. Not cold and damp like the basements we usually blog from. No wait, those are video gamers. Nevermind. We’re way cooler than those losers.
3. Newfoundlanders are wicked storytellers, so where are all the bloggers? I know of a few serious Newf playas in the blogosphere, like Candice Walsh and her kickass travel blog Free Candie (fancy new website alert!), Dave Sullivan and his Narcissist’s Revenge, and Drew Brown, the pride of Grand Falls-Windsor, who blogs for VICE and makes me hate politics a little less every day. Maybe they’ll come get some jam next year. Maybe they’ll bring Jam-Jams.
4. I like to write, but not as much as I like to entertain. You know, with my face. I think maybe I’d like to be a stand-up comedian when I grow up. Or maybe a lie-down comedian. I could just lie down in a bed on stage and make jokes while writhing around like misses in American Beauty, but with potato chips covering my girly bits instead of rose petals. Or maybe I’ll be a fireman.
5. “BlogJam” sounds like “log jam” which is what you call it when your poop is too big to flush so it jams up your toilet. I didn’t learn this at BlogJam. I just wanted to put it in here because it’s my blog and I’ll do what I want, bitch.
6. I enjoy saying bitch and I will keep saying it. Guys. We are taking back the word bitch.
7. The tools are no good if the writing is no good. You don’t have to be Ernest Hemingway (he’d be a shit blogger anyway), but content is king. A fancy website with wicked widgets and plugins and graphics can bring the horse to water, but give dat dere horsey some decent water to drink, luh. That analogy makes no sense whatsoever but I don’t give a fuck, Rae just shit herself in the bathtub, I got bigger problems.
8. That being said, some sweet graphics can go a long way. Look at my slideshow (COMING SOON SWEAR TO GOD), designed by the whimsical Mira Howards. If you’re a blogger with good content looking to take things up a notch, find yourself a young (or old — it’s possible) graphic web designer or WordPress whiz who’d be willing to give you a good rate (because you’re probably poor), to make your site look a little more sparkly-boo.
9. Don’t get caught up in the numbers and likes and comments. It’s all about engagement. I rarely get any comments on my blog, but I get lots of feedback on my social media channels where I share my stuff. I may be married, but I am engaged to a whole bunch of other people. ME DA WHORE.
10. People don’t mind when you say fuck a lot, if there’s a point. Points can have more impact when there’s a fuck in there. There will always be some people who’d prefer you say fudge, but there are also some people who prefer to walk around with shit in their pants. Everyone is different. You can’t please everybody. Carry on.
11. Food bloggers are sharp as fuck. I wish I had a food blogger friend like this “food nerd” who would take me to restaurants and teach me the difference between a garbanzo bean and a chickpea. JOKE PAUSE!
12. Not every blog SHOULD be a book, but every blog COULD be a book, so if you think you got a book in you (ouch, paper cuts) then go for it and see what happens. There are still seven or eight people in the world who buy paperbacks. Publishing is a hard ol’ racket, but even if you self-publish and sell 20 copies, YOU WROTE A FUCKING BOOK, MAN. Give ‘er.
14. The Fucking Facts is a brilliant blog name. I’m going to steal it from Kaleigh Trace when she’s off giving one of her blowjob workshops.
15. Moms control the economy and therefore rule the big ass world with our big fat juicy asses. You need us on your team if you’re going to win. For reals.
16. Some people are very kind and smile a lot. I like those people. They make me want to be less of a bitch face. Adam Purcell sponsored my voyage across the Gulf when other corporate sponsors said they had spent all their money on Post-It Notes. BlogJam creator Renee Downs is a beaming golden sun with rainbows for legs.
17. A blog can suffer growing pains, change direction, evolve. A blog is flexible. A blog is Play Doh.
18. It’s okay to be a woman and all about the money. I wouldn’t mind being this woman. Her name is Debbie but I like to call her CHA-CHING.
19. When it comes to privacy, you make the rules. Use your instincts. (Unless your instincts are shit, then ask someone else with better instincts for advice. Hopefully your instincts are good enough to know when your instincts are shit.)
20. If you want to talk about your kids on the Internet but don’t want people to know their names or faces, just stick some Star Wars heads on them and call ’em Chewy and Vader. That way, instead of stalking your little Dick and Jane or Jack and Jill, people will just become obsessed with finding out what Chewy and Vader really look like. I’ve been trolling for Mike Tanner‘s kids for three days straight now.
21. You can have five Christmas trees and wear pearls and a cardigan and a barrette and still be a fucking ninja. I already knew this, but Virginia Fynes reminded me.
22. Virginia Fynes is the perfect name for a DIY craft blogger. Be such a terrible shame if her name were Ulga Buggerboot.
23. There are many, many technical things I could learn to improve my blogging product but probably won’t because I am a sloth. Oh look, a raisin in my clavicle, mmmmm.
24. It’s okay to laugh about anxiety, and hemorrhoids.
25. Men’s rights bloggers only show up online, I guess. Probably for the best.
26. Do you feel that? It’s vagina time. It’s girl o’clock. Avocados were all the rage these last couple of years, but now it’s time for the ladies. Like this hilarious frigger, this amazing mutha, this smarty pants, and this rad missus right here. There are many, many others. And they all have tits!
27. It’s genius to open with a potty mouth mom and close with a (self-described) queer disabled sex educator. People will show up on time and stay till the end. Loves the weirdos, they do.
28. Eating juicy Nova Scotia strawberries on a white duvet with a baby who still uses her pants as a toilet is probably not the best idea. But twat odds, Batman.
29. If you’re taking your tot away on a conference when The Wiggles are in town, make sure she doesn’t find out about it.